Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Green-winged Orchid

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio
Another early flowering orchid is the Green-winged orchid; Anacamptis morio which comes into bloom in mid April and is at its best in May. Seen from a distance the dark pink flower spikes have a resemblance to the Early Purple Orchid but once you have seen the green or bronze veins running through the hood of the flower you cannot mistake the Green-winged orchid for anything else.

While most plants flower a dark shade of pink, there are some which are pale pink and occasionally white (var. alba). When you find a colony it is worth taking time to look at different plants to see the different coloured flowers. This year I found Green-winged Orchids on the range walks at Lulworth Cove. There are plenty of them growing along the paths that you can see closely. Behind the fenced off areas there larger clumps of plants which include more of the paler pink flowering plants. I could only look at these distant plants through my binoculars as signs warn that straying off the paths could mean wandering over unexploded ordnance.

The profusion of these flowers in the ranges, when it has declined in most areas, is because the ranges have preserved its habitat. The Green-winged Orchid grows on unfertilised grassland where the grass is kept relatively short and free of encroaching woodland through grazing or mowing. It grows best on damp pastures and though I am not sure of the soil type or condition I know that the ranges are often swathed in mist coming off the sea even on the hottest days. The mist catches on vegetation and drips down to the ground making conditions more tolerable for plants which might otherwise not grow there.

With its need for unimproved grassland you will not find Green-winged orchid, or indeed many other plant species, in the strange pastures of recently seeded grass which are dominated by Rye Grass (Lolium perenne) and have dark green uniform appearance. Old grassland is more uneven in colouring and texture with different shades of green denoting different grass species, tussocks and wider leaves of other flowering plants throughout the sward. With the loss of this kind of grassland Green-winged orchids as well as many other plant species have become less common. Locations which have escaped development and therefore can still support this orchid include railway cuttings, churchyards, village greens and golf courses.

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